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Community service benefits students

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Members of the Hattiesburg community and Southern Miss students volunteer downtown at The Venue by making and boxing lunches for relief workers and victims on Tuesday Feb. 12 after a tornado tore through the area. Mary Alice Truitt/Printz
Members of the Hattiesburg community and Southern Miss students volunteer downtown at The Venue by making and boxing lunches for relief workers and victims on Tuesday Feb. 12 after a tornado tore through the area.
Mary Alice Truitt/Printz

The University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement has seen a 50 percent increase in community service hours in the past five years. During the 2012-2013 school year, student volunteers completed more than 90,000 hours of community service.

By partnering with local, regional and state institutions, students made a difference by volunteering to tutor after-school, serve meals at homeless shelters and help the elderly at retirement homes.

Joshua Duplantis, director of the CCCE, said the increase in hours is a result of the 20 –  30 community service events they participate in per semester.

However, community service is not all work.  Duplantis tries to make it fun by encouraging students to volunteer in areas they enjoy.

“If they have an interest in something, we can help them get engaged in it,” Duplantis said.

In fall 2012, 14 Southern Miss students traveled to Houma, La. to help revive the Old Montegut Indian School, a historic building owned by the United Houma Nation.

Students also traveled to Atlanta to take a closer look at issues affecting urban areas.

Students wanting to volunteer are eligible for pay if they are accepted into AmeriCorps, a nationally known community service program.

“Once a student finishes the program, they get a $1,175 scholarship from the federal government,” Duplantis said.

Duplantis added that the CCCE has full and part-time positions available for students interested in tutoring at Hattiesburg schools. If hired, each student receives a $1,000 monthly stipend.

Some students are also paid $10 per hour for talking to Hattiesburg High School students about junior colleges, universities and vocational schools.

Duplantis stressed the importance of volunteer work as a learning tool.

“It helps students understand where they fit in as citizens and how important it is to be involved,” he said.  “(It helps you) make sure you are doing your part for the well-being for the people around you.”

On Sept. 21, 2013, members of the CCCE will help clean up Okatoma Creek in Seminary, Miss., and in spring 2014, volunteers will travel to the Mississippi Delta and Canada to do community service.

Students interested in volunteering with the Center for Community and Civic Engagement must be in good standing in the community and with the university, and have a minimum 2.0 grade point average.

For more information about the Center for Community and Civic Engagement call 601.266.5074 or visit their website at www.usm.edu/center-community-and-civic-engagement.

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